The Magic Cloak (1914) Poster

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An Enjoyable Fantasy, & Quite Resourceful For Its Era
Snow Leopard5 August 2005
This adaptation of L. Frank Baum's "The Magic Cloak of Oz" is an enjoyable fantasy feature that is also quite resourceful for its era. The settings and costumes are often lavish, and most of the special visual effects work well. The story is complex and lively, making for good entertainment.

A number of sources indicate that Baum himself directed this feature, replacing J. Farrell MacDonald after the first of the three Oz features in this 1914 series. Whether or not Baum actually did the direction, he certainly had a clear image of what he wanted the Oz world to look like, and you can clearly see his influence in the way that the characters and the Oz locations are brought to life.

The story, like all of the Oz stories, is a fun one that takes numerous exaggerated, imaginative characters and weaves them into the same narrative. As the main plot device, the magic cloak is the focus of the characters, and the story wisely makes restrained use of its actual powers so as to keep the focus on the characters themselves.

The cast includes several performers who also appeared in one or both of the other features in the series. Mildred Harris and Violet MacMillan, as Fluff and Bud, make sympathetic main characters. As Nikodemus, Fred Woodward gets the chance to show his skill with animal costumes, and several other good costume animals also appear. Juanita Hansen as Queen Zixi, the silly-looking Rolly Rogues, and the rest of the characters all get some moments of their own.

The movie features plenty of imaginative details, and the settings work well in bringing you into Baum's fantasy world. Although this is not quite a full-length feature, it's quite a bit longer than the average film was in 1914, and much of the production is creative and innovative for its time. It's an enjoyable movie that still holds up rather well for those who enjoy silent movies.
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Nickodemus is the Real Star.
Space_Mafune24 July 2006
Fairies weave a magic cloak capable of granting its wearer one wish but cannot decide who should receive it. Finally the Man in the Moon suggests they give it to the unhappiest person they can find. This person as it turns out is Fluff (played by Mildred Harris), on her way to the land of Noland with her brother Bud (as played by Violet MacMillan), their Aunt Rivette and their pet mule Nickodemus to make a new life having just recently lost her {and Bud's} father. After receiving the cloak from the fairies, Fluff wishes for happiness and Bud as luck should have walks right into inheriting a kingdom, making Fluff a princess. Things are well until their pet mule Nickodemus gets captured by robbers and the 683 year old beguiling Queen Zixi of Ix decides to come looking for the cloak, wishing to make herself appear as young and beautiful in her own mirror as others already see her.

The main problem with this movie is it seems to lack focus. While entitled "The Magic Cloak of Oz", the title should probably instead read "The Startling Adventures of Nickodemus the Mule" since Nickodemus (wonderfully brought to life by Fred Woodward) and his animal friends garner most of the attention during this one's running time. Now Nickodemus is often delightfully amusing to watch and really his scenes tend to provide this one's funniest moments. Another problem for some may be there's not enough familiar Oz style characters in this one, aside from the animals and the demanding, soup-eating Rolly Rogues. All in all though, this one's flaws ultimately prove somewhat forgivable since it's such an imaginative journey into a childlike fantasy world.
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The Magic of Childhood
johnny-m12 July 2004
Writing for children is arguably the hardest job for anyone. It involves so much speculation regarding the child's psyche, that the author, despite a richness of childhood experience, feels helpless at the task; that is if he/she intends to write good children literature. L. Frank Baum never seemed to have this handicap.

'The Magic Cloak of Oz', lost in its complete version, lacks the power of a great piece of work, and yet it is somewhat touching. The sets and the costumes are rich and beautiful; the cinematography is pleasant (Mildred Harris' mirrors scene deserves commending). On the acting front, Fred Woodward's physical performance is rather successful, and Juanita Hansen provides reasonable attempts not to overact.

The film is definitely dated, and it seems hard to imagine that the children of our times can really appreciate it. J. Farrell MacDonald, or Baum himself (according to some records), has provided a feeling of playfulness and sheer childhood joy in the story however. One has to imagine how great would it be for a kid to have the entire national budget spent on toys! Maybe, the film has the magic of the irresponsible days, a feature we learn to loose in time.
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Lesser known story by the writer of Oz
Horst_In_Translation30 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
"The Magic Cloak" is a 38-minute short film from 1914, so it had its 100th anniversary 2 years ago. Of course, this means it is a black-and-white silent film. The director is J. Farrell MacDonald, an extremely prolific actor as well who appeared for example in "Sunrise". The writer is L. Frank Baum, the man who wrote "The Wizard of Oz" too. However, he did not witness the success of the 1939 film anymore, but by 1914 and for this film here he was still very much alive (died five years later) and wrote also the screenplay. This fairly long short movie is possibly the most known work of lead actress Mildred Harris. It is a fantasy film and this shows also in terms of the sets and especially costumes used in here. On some occasions, I must say, it felt a bit awkward and weird to watch these people in very obvious animal costumes, but then I remember this is from over a century ago and it makes sense again. The success of the 1939 film I mentioned earlier shows how much Baum's films need color to really make an impact and sadly, but not surprisingly "The Magic Cloak" still does not have any yet. It would have elevated the material considerably I am sure. You cannot really blame any of the director, writer or cast for this not turning out a quality, but you can say that film in 1914 may not have been ready for this project. And it also has a problem that many silent films suffer from: not enough intertitles. I give it a thumbs-down. Not recommended.
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you wouldn't realize that this is part of the series
lee_eisenberg5 April 2015
A quarter century before Dorothy and her compatriots danced and sang their way down the yellow brick road, L. Frank Baum founded a production company and made some movie versions of his novels. One was "The Magic Cloak", which won't be immediately recognizable as part of the series. It centers on a cloak that grants the wearer a wish, but the story jumps around a lot. The best part is when the Rolly Rogues invade the town: these big fat guys look just like what anyone would toss into a movie for comic relief.

It's an OK movie, but the other two in this series were better. Even better still is the 1925 adaptation of Baum's most famous novel, featuring Oliver Hardy as the Tin Man.

A historical note for this one is that Fluff is played by Mildred Harris, who was married to Charlie Chaplin for a few years. Milla Jovovich played her in Richard Attenborough's "Chaplin".
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Interesting Oz Story, But...
elephant99920 August 2013
This is not the Wizard of Oz that we all know and love. This is far from it. The only real memorable character is the donkey (which by the way, was a bad costume). It all felt very awkward and was somewhat boring. It was funny at some parts, especially those involving the Donkey. An interesting fact is that Mildred Harris, who was one of Charlie Chaplin's wives, was in this film. The plot overall was decent, but somewhat predictable. The acting was good for its time but was not great. The music was appropriate for the Magic Cloak. There was just enough humor to keep me satisfied.

Overall, I give it a 6/10.
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Folks dressed as aminals dancing....
MartinHafer18 June 2010
Whoa....I guess I need to get around to reading those Oz books by Frank L Baum! I haven't yet, but boy are they different from the stuff you saw in the 1939 film!! This film finds a mythical kingdom without a king. Since the dead king had no heirs, the law says that the 47th person to pass through a certain gate will be their new ruler! And, unfortunately, it's Bud--a kid who would rather spend the country's treasury on toys than do anything to help his new subjects. In the meantime, there's a story about a donkey and other animals that are really people dressed up in odd costumes and there is a plot involving a magic cloak. All of this is pretty weird but also pretty entertaining because it is so incredibly strange and oddly entertaining. Overall, it's a really weird but engaging film that made me smile several times due to it's kitschy style and charm. It's NOT a film, however, to show to those unfamiliar with silent films--it might just be too strange and might scare them away from an awesome genre. Fun and weird.
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Man in the Moon
Cineanalyst30 December 2009
This is the second addition to Frank Baum's personally produced trilogy of Oz films. It's essentially the same childishness as in the other two pictures, although I consider it preferable to the others because it's shorter. As in the other films, there are performers in animal costumes, an adult woman pretends to be a boy, and the characters and plot jump all over the place while the camera-work is static. This time, at the center is a magic cloak that grants wishes, and the boy played by a woman is made a king.

Most of the special effects are witnessed at the beginning. Fairies are represented by multiple-exposure photography. And, there's a man in the moon that looks just like those made by Georges Méliès years before, most famously in "Le Voyage dans la lune" (A Trip to the Moon) (1902). Méliès's imaginative fantasies and creative trick effects made him the leading pioneer of early cinema, and the films he made around the turn of the century were far better and even technically more advanced than this trifling Oz series.
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Early Versions
Michael_Elliott13 March 2008
Magic Cloak of Oz, The (1914)

*** (out of 4)

The fairies of Oz create a magic cloak, which will give one wish to the person who wears it. Once again the production design is very good here with wonderful and magical sets. The story is quite touching and I'm sure kids would love this version just as much as adults. The highlight of the film is the scene where a horse (played by a human in an outfit) is scratching his butt up against a tree and tries to teach a monkey how to do it.

Wizard of Oz, The (1910)

*** (out of 4)

Nice if strange version of the classic tale. The production values here are actually pretty nice and it's a rather strange trip seeing humans in outfits playing the various animals including the lion.

Wizard of Oz, The (1933)

*** (out of 4)

Pretty good Technicolor cartoon based on the book. The animation is rather nice and the scarecrow and tin man are pretty funny here as well. This was the first version to show Kansas in B&W and then Oz in color.
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